Description The Iraq War was an armed conflict in Iraq that consisted of two phases. The first was an invasion of Iraq starting on March 20, 2003 by an invasion force led by the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Poland which resulted in the end of Ba'athist Iraq and the establishment of a democratic constitution. It was followed by a longer phase of fighting, in which an insurgency emerged opposing the occupying forces and the newly elected Federal government of Iraq. Roughly 96.5 percent of the casualties suffered by coalition forces were suffered during the second phase, rather than the initial invasion. The U.S. completed its withdrawal of military personnel in December 2011, during the ninth year of the war. However, the insurgency is ongoing and continues to cause thousands of fatalities.
Prior to the war, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom claimed that Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed a threat to their security and that of their allies. In 2002, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1441 which called for Iraq to completely cooperate with UN weapon inspectors to verify that Iraq was not in possession of WMD and cruise missiles. Prior to the attack, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) found no evidence of WMD, but could not yet verify the accuracy of Iraq's declarations regarding what weapons it possessed, as their work was still unfinished. The leader of the inspectors, Hans Blix, estimated the time remaining for disarmament being verified through inspections to be "months".
After investigation following the invasion, the U.S. led Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq had ended its nuclear, chemical and biological programs in 1991 and had no active programs at the time of the invasion, but that they intended to resume production if the Iraq sanctions were lifted. Although no active chemical weapons program was found, at least 17 U.S. troops, with 600 other U.S. troops reporting symptoms of exposure, and 7 Iraqi police officers were burned or wounded while in close proximity with the remains of degraded chemical artillery rounds left over from Iraq's pre-1991 chemical weapons program. Paul R. Pillar, the CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East from 2000 to 2005, said "If prewar intelligence assessments had said the same things as the Duelfer report, the administration would have had to change a few lines in its rhetoric and maybe would have lost a few member's votes in Congress, but otherwise the sales campaign—which was much more about Saddam's intentions and what he "could" do than about extant weapons systems—would have been unchanged. The administration still would have gotten its war. Even Dick Cheney later cited the actual Duelfer report as support for the administration's pro-war case."
However, George J. Tenet, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, stated Vice President Cheney and other George W. Bush administration officials pushed the country to war in Iraq without ever conducting a "serious debate" about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States.
Some U.S. officials also accused Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of harboring and supporting al-Qaeda, but no evidence of a meaningful connection was ever found. Other stated reasons for the invasion included Iraq's financial support for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Iraqi government human rights abuses, and an effort to spread democracy to the country.
On 16 March 2003, the U.S. government advised the U.N. inspectors to leave their unfinished work and exit from Iraq. On 20 March the US-led coalition conducted a surprise military invasion of Iraq without declaring war. The invasion led to an occupation and the eventual capture of Saddam, who was later tried in an Iraqi court of law and executed by the new Iraqi government. Violence against coalition forces and among various sectarian groups soon led to the Iraqi insurgency, strife between many Sunni and Shia Iraqi groups, and the emergence of a new faction of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
In June 2008, US Department of Defense officials claimed security and economic indicators began to show signs of improvement in what they hailed as significant and fragile gains. Iraq was fifth on the 2008 Failed States Index, and sixth on the 2009 list. As public opinion favoring troop withdrawals increased and as Iraqi forces began to take responsibility for security, member nations of the Coalition withdrew their forces. In late 2008, the American and Iraqi governments approved a Status of Forces Agreement effective through 1 January 2012. The Iraqi Parliament also ratified a Strategic Framework Agreement with the United States, aimed at ensuring cooperation in constitutional rights, threat deterrence, education, energy development, and other areas.
In late February 2009, newly elected U.S. President Barack Obama announced an 18-month withdrawal window for combat forces, with approximately 50,000 troops remaining in the country "to advise and train Iraqi security forces and to provide intelligence and surveillance". UK forces ended combat operations on 30 April 2009. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said he supported the accelerated pullout of U.S. forces. In a speech at the Oval Office on 31 August 2010 Obama declared "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country."